Making the Scene

Shipping News helps define Louisville's post-Slint sound

 

"Our music?

"It's really difficult to separate our sound from other bands in

Louisville

," Noble continues. "Slint is one of our very favorite bands, and of course they've influenced us. But we're also influenced by other

Louisville

groups like Bastro and Crane. We're all in a scene, and there is a connection. We were all teenagers when Slint was making records, and I can't imagine having been at those shows as a teenager and not being influenced by them and everything else that was happening in

Louisville

at the time. But we definitely have a sense of ourselves."

As they should.

The

 

 

 

The

"We've always kind of messed with our songs," says Noble. "We'll take an old song and change it or add a section. We're not doing quite as much improvisation as we were doing a couple of years ago because we felt like we were getting too jammy there for a while. So I think on this tour we'll be playing the songs similar to the way they were recorded. That said

,

m

With the spate of hype surrounding Slint's recent, brief reformation, there's been a lot of speculation about Louisville, Ky.'s ranking among America's underground music Meccas. Sure, every rock scene of historical note had a sound: Athens, Ga. had the jangly, danceable pop sound of '80s college rock; Seattle had grunge; and Louisville had post-hardcore math rock, or something. We all know that the sound of any particular city is usually just an easy tag for use by us rock music hacks, right?

So let's contemplate Shipping News, Louisville via Chicago's "other" super-tight, hyper-literate post-hardcore band. With around a decade as an entity, Shipping News reconvenes about once a year to record or tour. And like most other introspective, genre-defying and experimental acts, the band eschews labeling. 

"Our music? If I had to describe it I'd probably stammer a lot and then stammer a little bit more, failing to describe it as I am about to fail now," says Shipping News guitarist/vocalist Jason Noble. "I'll just say it's rock music: it's fairly dark and fairly introverted, and it gets real, real loud and real, real soft at times." Fair enough.

"It's really difficult to separate our sound from other bands in Louisville," Noble continues. "Slint is one of our very favorite bands, and of course they've influenced us. But we're also influenced by other Louisville groups like Bastro and Crane. We're all in a scene, and there is a connection. We were all teenagers when Slint was making records, and I can't imagine having been at those shows as a teenager and not being influenced by them and everything else that was happening in Louisville at the time. But we definitely have a sense of ourselves."

As they should. Shipping News' catalog of material ranks with or surpasses those of their Louisville contemporaries, Slint included. The band's latest release, Flies The Fields (Touch & Go Records), is perhaps their most fully realized effort, a challenging record which communicates a vague sense of tension through sparse instrumentation, occasional jarring passages, and smoldering, opaque lyrics.

"I think sometimes we're really serious or sort of contemplative," says Noble. "And this can come across as menacing or scary. The general ideas of our lyrics reflect the state of unrest that we see in the world these days.  I mean, it's hard to keep that unrest out of your lyrics if you're even halfway sensitive to what's going on in the world.

"We don't write a song, then feel relieved and say, 'I've said my peace,'" he continues. "A song is more like a jumping-off point. It leaves you with unanswered questions in a poetic way. 

"And being poetic can get a bad rap. We're not trying to be confusing. But even our songs about particular relationships can be taken in many ways. We don't want to dictate or lecture to people on how they're going to perceive the songs."

Shipping News applies the same criteria to its compositional techniques. When creating songs, the band goes through a painstaking, meticulous and drawn-out process of discussion and interaction. No one in the group dictates how others will play their parts. And no one has total autonomy. 

"There's a lot of discussion about what the lyrics are saying and how they might come across," says Noble. "The first people to interpret the lyrics are the other guys in the band, so they have to agree with what's being communicated. We hash it out a lot.

"We work a lot on each others' parts as well," Noble adds. "You know, everyone has the freedom to get into his own instrument. But sometimes we'll confront each other and say, 'Will you play this?' We like to work on each others' music."

Flies The Fields was recorded a year ago in Atlanta. And since then, band members have gone separate ways to pursue other projects. So it makes sense that when Shipping News got back together, members all brought new experiences and musical approaches to the table.

"We've always kind of messed with our songs," says Noble. "We'll take an old song and change it or add a section. We're not doing quite as much improvisation as we were doing a couple of years ago because we felt like we were getting too jammy there for a while. So I think on this tour we'll be playing the songs similar to the way they were recorded. That said, we don't feel we have an obligation to recreate the old stuff by rote. It's hard to repeat ourselves because we're never exactly the same people when we come back together." m

 

Who: Shipping News w/ Ibrahim and Fecal Japan

When: Thursday, April 14, 9 p.m.

Where: Pilot Light

How much: $6

 

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